Pictorialism and the Neue Sachlichkeit

Neue Sachlichkeit (the new objectivity, or new matter-of-factness) is the term used to describe the cultural impact of American capitalism on post-WW1 Germany. It applied from c1918-1933. There were several brilliant photographers working in Germany during this period, and many had roots in pictorialism, abstraction or the experimental ‘avant garde’.


Heinz Hajek Halke: untitled c1925 Hajek Halke is the epitome of an experimental artist photographer, but here he is recording the cabaret arts of the Weimar Republic in this vivacious action-shot of a strip-dancer.


Heinz Hajek Halke: Akt im Spiegel c1930 Hajek Halke displays the same range of inventiveness as more well known artist-photographers from this period, such as Man Ray.


Heinz Hajek Halke: Umarmung 1947 Hajek Kalke investigates time-exposures and abstractions, creating this semi-abstract nude (umarmung – literally translated as a hug, or embrace).


Heinz Hajek Halke: Sensuality-Close-Up 1928. Like Ridley Scott in Blade Runner imagining the movie-projected advertising of the near future, Hajek Halke fuzes the advertising image with a building scaffolding. His use of ‘close-up’ also refers to cinematography of course, and the scale of the large screen cinemas at this time of cinema-palaces. This is a perfect illustration of the zeitgeist.

Hajek Halke surely illustrates a wide range of experiments in image-making, often reverting to the more ‘traditional’ pictorialism of the Photo-Secessionists.


Heinz Hajek Halke: Rosa Settler 1928



Edmund Kesting: the dancer Dore Hoyer 1939. Hajek Halke was certainly not the only experimentalist of this period. The impact of Cubism and cubist collage iterated through the avant garde at this time.



Fernand Leger and Dudley Murphy (with assistance of Man Ray): Ballet Mecanique 1924. This famous montage sequence featuring Man Ray’s lover and model, Alice Prin (‘Kiki de Montparnass’) is from the wildly chaotic Ballet Mecanique. Ballet Mecanique predates the other famous experimental film of this period (Vertov: Man With A Movie Camera – 1929), and Murphy and Leger invent many of the techniques and camera-angles later deployed by Vertov. But it’s the fusion of George Anthiel’s music and the sycopated imagery that impress and inspire. It’s always difficult – maybe impossible – to understand the sensibility of times past – to imagine what it was like to see this film in 1924. As viewers, we have become sophisticated and satiated with rapid-cut commercials, TV and Film. And this must have been wildly radical, perhaps almost incomprehensible, at the time…


Francis Bruguiere: Rosalind Fuller 1923


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